Sean Callahan, Chief Operating Officer of Catholic Relief Services, called on Congress to continue to support the people of the Philippines as they work to recover from Typhoon Haiyan.
In testimony before the House Foreign Affairs Committee Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations, Callahan said CRS has already committed over $23 million for the urgent relief efforts, with $15.5 million of that coming from private funding.
“As we move into the stages of recovery and rebuilding, we would encourage the U.S. Government to lead the establishment of a donor forum to raise the necessary resources to help the Philippines rebuild,” he said. “We would also continue to encourage the U.S. Government’s ongoing robust response, which depends on critical funding for poverty focused international assistance.”
Typhoon Haiyan struck the Philippines on Nov. 8, landing on the island of Leyte with its 200 mph winds cutting a swath of destruction over several of the country’s many islands. Over 4,000 are known to have died with millions more affected by the storm. CRS, which has been working in the Philippines since 1945, was at the site of the disaster within hours.
“Many were living exposed to the elements, facing rain for days after the typhoon,” Callahan said. “Therefore we provided emergency shelter kits including durable, long-lasting tarps which can withstand various weather conditions and nails to fasten to an A-frame, which can be made from salvaged materials or coconut lumber.”
Water purification tablets, other hygiene items and household goods have been distributed by CRS and its local partners, including the Catholic Church, Callahan told the subcommittee. CRS has delivered and filled large water bladders that are providing clean water to communities cut off from their normal supply.
“CRS is providing ‘Cash for Work’ support to 15,000 people to clean their neighborhoods, reducing the risk of disease, while providing income to those who have lost their jobs due to the storm,” he said.
Callahan explained that all of CRS’ work has been done in a way to protect vulnerable people, particularly girls and young women, from exploitation in the wake of this tragedy.
For longer-term efforts, Callahan said farmers who have lost their coconut crops will need assistance for several years. He emphasized that all rebuilding efforts should take into account the fact that this area often faces such storms.
“We would encourage the USG to develop and fund a long-term recovery program,” Callahan said. “This would include dedicated funds for disaster risk reduction since the Philippines continually ranks as one of the most disaster prone countries in the world.
“Without proper protection, development gains will be lost by disasters, ultimately leaving the country poorer. Funding for disaster risk reduction should be focused and dedicated, rather than drawing from funds for other aspects of the recovery,” he said.
Read his full testimony.
Read more about CRS’ response in the Philippines.